You Know You Can Make It
(This essay was previously published in Air Force, Army and Navy Times, 10/12/92)
My Confident Inner Voice Has Helped Me Clear Many Hurdles
Although I’ve been running for eighteen years, at all hours of the day and night, a particular run stands out in my mind.
We were new on base and I didn’t know a soul. Would I fit in? On the outside I’ve always tried to project confidence, but somewhere deep within clings a shy little girl afraid to speak up. No matter how many times we’ve moved in the military, that horrible fear of rejection creeps back every time we get to a new place.
So what do I do? I run.
The effort helps me to dig past that bashful 5-year-old, and find the other inner voice that has carried me this far, cheering me on: “You know you can make it.”
Regardless of my own personal hurdles, many people find that being new is not just about fitting in. It’s starting over from scratch. Getting lost on a simple trip to the store. Trying to find a new baby sitter. Locating the nearest emergency room. So many answers to find when you’re new.
Sometimes it’s just plain hard to let go of the past. I’m guilty of this. We had just arrived in Louisiana from Alaska, where the air is clean and crisp; the heavy climate of the South was going to take some getting used to. I compared everything and everybody to Alaska. Our children were born there and I longed for the familiar comfort zone we had left behind.
We loved Alaska and bragged about being there to everyone we met. When telling my stories, I tended to forget about the dark harsh winters and instead raved about having 24-hour daylight in the summer. A more realistic view is that living in Alaska forced me to grow up. As a mother of two young children, I learned that love is a lot like the last spoonful of peanut butter: Both can go a long way in a pinch. And at 35 below zero, I couldn’t exactly run home to mama. In truth, I ran in 25 below weather to combat a mild case of cabin fever, since I was stuck inside all day.
Relying on friends got me through some difficult times, too. On an isolated military installation on top of the world, friendship was essential for survival.
All these thoughts were jogging around in my head as I continued down my new street, passing several sets of quarters with that “settled in” look. It was obvious to me that many of these military families had been there awhile. They probably all knew each other. On the other hand, my husband and I were the new kids on the block and the older you get the harder it is to make friends. I missed my friends back in Alaska and wondered if I’d ever enjoy those same kinds of friendships again.
The longer I ran, though, the more I sensed that a change was taking place. I started shaking off some of the negative thoughts I had about the South (like the killer humidity in the summer), and I started making a mental checklist of all the good points it had.
For instance, when my husband walked out to his airplane on a morning here in the South, he didn’t have to worry about frostbite and long underwear and ice fog. When I loaded the kids up to run errands, gone were the days of struggling with snow suits, boots, lost mittens and warming up the truck before heading out. Gone, too, was my artic ski mask and three layers of clothing for a quick jog around the block.
A little over halfway through my workout, I was tired and wanted to quit. I turned out onto the road that winds around the flight line. Before me were squadrons of A-10 jets parked on the ramp, still and silent under a thin coating of frost in that first pink light of morning.
With a sudden burst of power – a second wind – I turned down the straightaway for the final approach to the house, and like a pat on the back from an old friend, a flash of memories reminded me of other pink sunrises in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. Other places and people that took time to find their way into our hearts.
There was the voice again: “You know you can make it.”
Kathleen M. Rodgers is an award-winning author whose work has appeared in national and regional publications. Her debut novel, “The Final Salute,” is ranked #1 on Amazon's Top Rated War Fiction - 2012. In 2010 it shot all the way up to # 2 on Amazon's Bestselling Military Aviation. In 2009, The Final Salute won a Silver Medal from Military Writers Society of America. Kathleen is busy at work on a new novel about a woman named Johnnie Kitchen.